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The Joy of Weeding

Anne Rees

The joy of weeding? Surely not! Who on earth would enjoy getting down on their hands and knees to weed the garden and the gravel garden paths?

Weeding is what David and I have just spent time doing after three months of not being able to do much work in our garden at all. Pulling out all the dandelions, cat's ears and summer grass, and violets and granny's bonnets which had grown from seeds flung out from the garden beds bordering the vegetable garden where these plants are supposed to stay.

However, the joy has not come from the actual weeding but from watching some of the birds that have visited the garden as we have been working.

Early one misty morning, just as we started on the weeds, our attention was diverted by some King Parrots. The Kings were flying into the wet eucalypt foliage high above us, and flapping around amongst the leaves as if showering them- selves. They continued this for quite some time and then suddenly they all flew away. We have seen this behavior here from King Parrots several times in the past.

Scarlet Robin (male) Australian King Parrot (male)
Left: Scarlet Robin (male). Right: Australian King Parrot (male)
Photos from Wikimedia Commons. Scarlet Robin by 'Noodle Snacks', reproduced under the Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. Australian King Parrot by Arthur Chapman, reproduced under the Attribution 2.0 License.

We got back to work. but it was not long before we paused again, this time to watch a group of Superb Fairy-wrens. They came from the reserve over our side fence, worked their way through the vegetable garden, all the time uttering their high piping calls, and then they moved to the native gardens at the front of the house. Some time was spent here amongst the various correas and grevilleas as they sought out insects, be- fore they moved on to the birdbaths for a quick dip.

While we were removing a dead Grevillea juniperina from a side garden, we heard a "chick-chick" noise coming from the garden at the front of the house. We had to investigate and found two honeyeater species in the garden. There seemed to be a little friction between the two species. Two New Holland Honeyeaters appeared to be the dominant birds, feeding high on the flowers of a Grevillea longistyla, while at least three of a whole family of Eastern Spinebills that live here were feeding in the lower parts of this grevillea and on two plants of one other, Grevillea "Austraflora Canterbury Gold".

New Holland Honeyeater Eastern Spinebill
Left: New Holland Honeyeater. Right: Eastern Spinebill
Photos from Wikimedia Commons. New Holland Honeyeater by Louise Docker, reproduced under the Attribution 2.0 License. Eastern Spinebill by Glen Fergus, reproduced under the Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.

G. "Austraflora Canterbury Gold", although not a showy grevillea, is a favoured plant with a range of birds. It attracts the various honeyeaters which are to be found in this area. and also many insectivorous birds. We have the two plants at the back of one of the front gardens. A very hardy grevillea, G. "Austraflora Canterbury Gold" responds well to pruning. We regularly prune the plants to prevent them from becoming loo invasive, they now liavc grown into a loose hedge along the back of this garden.

  Golden Whistler (male)

Golden Whistler (male)
Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Aviceda and reproduced under the Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

We continued to watch the New Holland Honeyeaters and the Eastern Spinebills as we went on with our weeding and the birds stayed in the garden for the rest of the day. They did a continual circuit of the gardens, going from the two grevilleas to the correas, C. reflexa, C. baeuerlenii, C. decumbens and C. "Dusky Bells', in this garden and in the side garden. Then they moved on to the kangaroo paws, Anigozanthos "Bush Gold". A. "Bush Noon" and A. "Yellow Gem" in the front garden, two lambertias, L. uniflora and L. formosa, in the side garden and two of the grevilleas in the back garden, G. lanigera "Mt Tamboritha" and G. "Ned Kelly".

We weeded again the following day and there were more birds to watch. Early in the day Striated Thornbills, occasional garden visitors, hovered above and then dropped into one of the water bowls. After a quick splash around, they retreated to deep inside a Grevillea shiressii to carry on a long and careful preen.

A male Scarlet Robin was briefly glimpsed as he sat on a fence post. and not long after this we heard lots of whistling calls coming from birds in the small eucalypts in the side reserve. These birds were nondescript brown birds, which we couldn't identify, that was until we saw the male of the species. Sitting on his own, on a bare branch, was a beautiful Golden Whistler. The brown birds must have been a female and young Golden Whistlers. This is only the second time we have seen Golden Whistlers here. On the previous occasion we saw two male Golden Whistlers feeding on the ground underneath an Acacia iteaphylla.

The New Holland Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills returned again this day, re- visiting their range of nectar producing flowers, with one Eastern Spinebill spending some time throughout the day sitting on a small eucalypt branch, singing his lovely piping song. Possibly a territorial display?

With so much to wonder at, and despite interruptions, in two days. without it seeming to be much of a chore, we removed every weed from this area of our garden.

So perhaps there is some joy in weeding after all. There's nothing like standing back and admiring a job well done is there?

From Growing Australian, the newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria), June 2002.

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